All week leading up to Saturday’s homecoming football game with Southampton, the winner of which would take home the handsome silver Hampton Cup that was introduced into the rivalry by Bridgehampton National Bank in 1982, East Hampton High’s coaches fed the emotional fires, and came the big night, the Bonackers scorched their ancient foes 42-7 before a full house under the lights.
It was only the 14th time in the 89-year span of the rivalry — one of the Island’s oldest — that an East Hampton team had defeated its Southampton counterpart. Leroy DeBoard, a 1951 graduate who had earlier that day been inducted as a member of the first class of East Hampton High School’s Hall of Fame, recalled that his team’s 6-0 win over Southampton in 1949 had been only the third for East Hampton since the rivalry began in 1923.
East Hampton’s head coach, Bill Barbour Jr., and one of his assistants, Jason Menu, had a similar tale to tell their charges, to wit, that they had been teammates when East Hampton last won the Cup, in 1987 — 25 years ago.
So, given that history, the community spirit attending homecomings, and the inaugural Hall of Fame class’s celebrations that day, there was plenty of fuel for the fire.
The next day, when a knowledgeable observer remarked that Southampton’s eleven was sorely wanting, and that he’d been hoping for a better game, the sentiment was dismissed by a Bonac partisan who was still reveling in the rout.
From the start, the Bonackers cut through the Mariners like warm butter, scoring on their first three possessions, capped by the junior quarterback Cortland Heneveld’s 13-yard keeper, a 15-yard third-down pass by him to Pete Vaziri, and by an 11-yard touchdown pass to John Pizzo, who played on East Hampton’s championship golf team last fall.
And, more wonderful to tell, Max Lerner, East Hampton’s sophomore kicker, bisected the goalposts on all three point-after attempts.
“I don’t remember the last time we led 21-0 before the first quarter was over,” said Cid Cerchiai, a longtime volunteer assistant.
Following all the tumult and the shouting, Dave Fioriello, after letting this writer into the locked press booth so he could extract Southampton’s lineup from the wastebasket, said he couldn’t remember a homecoming win in the past decade, nor could he remember the last time a Bonac team cashed in the opening kickoff.
The Mariners got one back early in the second quarter, though because the scoreboard was on the fritz — the result of deferred maintenance on the school board’s part — it was hard to keep track of the passage of time. Before the break, East Hampton added another score, spanning 75 yards in two plays — a 45-yard gain by Heneveld on a keeper and a 30-yard pitch to Pizzo.
You could see in the visitors’ eyes as they trudged off to the locker room at halftime that they were a beaten team.
A 43-yard touchdown run up the middle by Andre Cherrington in the third quarter and an 18-yard TD by Danny Barros in the fourth were yet to come, after which the joyous Bonackers swept across the field with the Hampton Cup hoisted high, to the delight of their fans.
Barbour, whose postgame demeanor has often been sober in recent years, was as ebullient as he’s been since taking over the coaching reins six years ago.
He told his players in the postgame huddle that now they knew what could come from hard work, that every single one of them had contributed to the win, that they’d done everything that had been asked of them, and that they deserved to be proud of themselves. Heady moments like the one they were relishing didn’t come along very often in life, the coach said.
Heneveld, Cherrington, Vaziri, Pizzo, Jamie Wolf (who seemed to be everywhere on defense), Lerner, Chris Milia, the young offensive line . . . the kids on the bench — everyone came in for Barbour kudos afterward.
You play for these moments, he said in talking with sportswriters. Football was more than a game — it was about teammates and parents and community-building. And playing for the Hampton Cup was, he said, indeed special. “We won it in ’85, lost it in ’86, won it in ’87, and had to give it back in ’88, the year I was a captain. . . . It was awesome, even though sometimes it was awful!”